ATHM Presents Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol

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ATHM Presents Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol
North American debut showcases prints on fabric by 20th century masters of modern art

Lowell, Massachusetts – The American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts is proud to present Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol, a groundbreaking exhibition with rare pieces, many never before seen on public display, from the masters of 20th century modern art. The exhibit runs November 21, 2014 through March 29, 2015.

On loan from the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, Picasso to Warhol traces the history of 20th century art in textiles, highlighting works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Raoul Dufy, Barbara Hepworth, Fernand Léger, Henry Moore, and Ben Nicholson. The exhibit features examples of key European and American art movements – Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Abstraction, Surrealism, and Pop Art – as well as the work of leading fashion designers and manufacturers.

“Art for the masses”

With over 200 rare pieces, Picasso to Warhol shows how ordinary people were once able to engage with modern art in a personal and intimate way through their clothing and home furnishings.

“This exhibition of rare fashion and furnishing fabrics by artists highlights the quality of textiles as a medium for combining art and mass production,” said ATHM President Jonathan Stevens. “Visitors will gain a rare and remarkable glimpse of how ordinary people were once able to directly engage in a personal and intimate way with high modern art through their everyday clothing and the furnishings of their homes.”

Twentieth century art in textiles was truly “art for the masses,” bringing the high culture of art into the everyday lives of ordinary citizens – which is also an important part of the mission of the American Textile History Museum, according to Dr. David Unger, ATHM Director of Interpretation. “This is art designed as fabric, not for fabric,” said Dr. Unger. “The fabric is the canvas.”

“Picassos may be leaned against, not sat on.”

This major exhibition of works on fabric begins in the 1910s with designs by the Vorticist painter Wyndham Lewis and the artists of Bloomsbury’s Omega Workshops – Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, and Roger Fry – who wanted to change “the erroneous distinction between fine and applied art.” The Fauvist painter Raoul Dufy was the first 20th-century artist to become seriously and successfully involved in producing textile designs. His work influenced and encouraged many other artists and textile companies in Britain, on the Continent and in America.

After the war the movement to create “a masterpiece in every home” flowered with the involvement of leading contemporary artists, including John Piper, Salvador Dalí, and Ben Nicholson. Eventually, these art textiles were turned into commercial clothing, from a Joan Miró dress to a Salvador Dalí tie. By the 1960s, Picasso was allowing his pictures to be printed on almost any fabric, with the exception of upholstery. The sofa was a line he wouldn’t cross, as the curators note: “Picassos may be leaned against, not sat on.”

Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol exhibition:

Location: American Textile History Museum, 491 Dutton St., Lowell, MA 01854

On view: November 21, 2014 – March 29, 2015. Open Wednesday – Sunday, 10am–5pm (closed major holidays). Ticket prices: $8 adults, $6 seniors and students. Free for museum members and children under 6.

Public opening and curator talk: Thursday, December 4. 5:00pm – 6:30pm public tours of the exhibition. 5:30pm private reception for members and VIP guests. 6:30pm presentation by Picasso to Warhol curators Geoffrey Rayner and Richard Chamberlain of London’s Target Gallery.

For group tours and booking information, visit or call 978-441-0100.

About the American Textile History Museum

An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the American Textile History Museum tells America’s story through the art, history, and science of textiles. In addition to its core exhibition and rotating special exhibitions, ATHM holds the world’s largest and most important publicly held collections of tools, spinning wheels, hand looms, and early production machines; more than five million pieces of textile prints, fabric samples, rolled textiles coverlets, and costumes; and the renowned Osborne Library.


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